A mysterious Russian satellite is approaching a mysterious American satellite

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picture: SpaceX

Russia just launched a mysterious satellite that could spy on an even more mysterious US satellite, as it isThe Russian spacecraft is expected to approach its intended target Thursday.

Before its launch on Monday, there had already been speculation that the Russian satellite would be a “inspector”And the One is chasing the other satellite for a closer look. The spy satellite, which was about to receive the designation Kosmos 2558, was launched in the same orbital plane as a US military satellite. Named USA 326, which flew into space in February. Marco Langbroek, professor of astrodynamics at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, tracked the orbital plane of the two satellites and found that the Russian satellite was launched at the same time. American satellite Passed over the Russian spaceport Plesetsk.

“The two orbits are very close, the main difference is relatively small, Langbroek told Gizmodo in an email. “This is a very clear indication.” The US satellite is moving in a sun-synchronous orbit with an inclination of 97.4 degrees, while the Russian satellite is in a sun-synchronous orbit with an inclination of 97.25 degrees, according to Langbroek. The Russian satellite can also maneuver In the coming days to get closer to its American counterpart.

“yes Never maneuver beforeCosmos 2558 will pass USA 326 at a distance of approximately 75 km On August 4, around 14:47 UTC “, He said Langbrook.

This type of Russian satellite has already been used for tracking satellites in orbit. “It’s supposed to have some kind of sensor system that’s been optimized for observing other satellites, rather than the usual kind of observational satellite that’s optimized to take pictures of Earth,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. , a Gizmodo. “We don’t know for sure, we just infer that from his behaviour.” He added that the satellite also has a manipulator drive system, which allows it to adjust its orbit in different ways. Both seem to be useful tools for stalking.

Entonces, ¿por qué eligió a USA 326 como su presa? Se conocen pocos detalles sobre el satélite militar, lo que lo hace aún más intrigante para Rusia. “Es un modelo nuevo y es de interés porque no sabemos mucho al respecto”, dijo McDowell. “Quiero saber cómo es, y estoy seguro de que los rusos tienen exactamente el mismo interés”. Al flotar junto a él en el espacio, el satélite ruso podría tomar algunas fotos para conocer cualquier detalle, como su antena o un posible telescopio.

El acecho espacial ha ocurrido antes, y a veces Estados Unidos es el que espía. En 2020, otro satélite ruso, Kosmos 2542, latent To USA 245, a photoelectric spy satellite in low orbit Earth. In June 2017, the US military satellite Closer to USA 276 Within walking distance of the International Space Station 6.4 kilometers. In early 1998, Hobby Discover An American satellite also believed to have been used for space espionage purposes.

In space, this is not the case Illegal to spy. “despite of Stay satellite 100 miles from From the United States of Americathe US government You will be angry McDowell said. “But they don’t have the right to complain because there is no rule against that.” a Unless one satellite gets dangerously close to another, he explained, a collision is likely. “But And theAt what point are you in the personal space of another satellite? That is the question,” McDowell added.

Langbroek will follow The two satellites are in orbit over the next few days to see if they are very close. US satellite It can stray from its Russian counterpart Or just stay in place and let unwanted attention. We will watch.

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